On 9 September 菊の節句 also known as Kiku no Sekku (Chrysanthemum Day) is celebrated in Japan; an event that has been celebrated since 910. Chrysanthemum Day is celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth month because, in terms of numerology, this was seen as an auspicious day.
The chrysanthemum was first cultivated in China where mention of the flower dates back to the 15th century BCE. The flower arrived in Japan sometime in the 7th or 8th century CE. Eventually it became Japan’s national flower and many family crests incorporate a chrysanthemum.
Dating back to Emperor Jimmu in 660 BCE, Japan has the oldest monarchy in the world. Because the imperial standards for emperor and other members of the Imperial House of Japan incorporate the chrysanthemum, the term “Chrysanthemum Throne” is typically used in the west to refer to the “Imperial Throne” of Japan.
Traditionally, people would clean their bodies with chrysanthemum sake or chrysanthemum water. Sometimes, cotton was placed over chrysanthemum flowers in the evening. Then, the next morning, people would wash themselves with the dew soaked fabric.
Chrysanthemum wine and was typically drunk on Kiku no Sekku to ward away evil spirits. Chrysanthemum tea was also a popular drink. To make the tea, dried chrysanthemum flowers are steeped in hot water. Sometimes, sugar is added to the drink.
Ancient Chinese herbalists attributed a variety of benefits to drinking chrysanthemum tea such as lowering the body temperature when someone has a fever and in cleansing the liver. Contemporary herbalists recommend it as a treatment for asthma.
In April 2012, Nateepat Pitinidhipat and Patchanee Yasurin published their scientific study “Antibacterial Activity of Chrysanthemum indicum, Centella asiatica and Andrographis paniculata against Bacillus cereus and Listeria monocytogenes under Osmotic Stress” which concluded “C. indicum, C. asiatica, and A. paniculata showed the presence of promising antibacterial substances against B. cereus and L. monocytogene under normal and osmotic stress.”
–Steven L. Berg, PhD
Photo Caption: Boys wrestling during Kiku no Sekkufrom 雅遊五節句之内 (Children’s Games for the Five Festivals) published by Wakasa-ya Yoichi, c. 1840.